Wine choice for October/Nov

2010/11  Weissburgunder Trocken (Dry)

Weingut Walter and Georg Jung

The Weissburgunder grape is more popularly known as Pinot Blanc and owes its origin as a “sport” or mutation of Pinot Noir. The grape is relatively low in acidity and is often drunk as a young wine. I have enjoyed this wine for many decades, most notably from my friends whose vineyard I am highlighting from Rheinhessen, Germany. There are also wonderful expressions of wines made from this grape in Baden, Germany and across the Rhein in the Alsace where it will be called by its French name, Pinot Blanc. When tasting this wine I find myself delaying the process as I search for its delicate bouquet for this is a stylish wine. It’s fruity with a lemony fragrance and then a palate of apples and honey.

In Germany where the Riesling grape quite rightly holds sway, this variety rarely disappoints and should be taken more seriously. I was shocked to read in one well-respected title that the popular German wine made from the Muller-Thurgau grape has a tendency to be “bland”. This is truly misleading and I suspect that a comparison was being made with the more distinctive Riesling grape. Each grape variety has its own characteristics and can produce fine wines and there is always an appropriate occasion to enjoy a particular wine.

Whilst recommending a wine from a vineyard in Germany, I can well appreciate that many of my readers will hold their arms aloft and say, “how and where am I supposed to obtain this wine?” Indeed so. I would therefore encourage one to travel to Germany and seek out these fine wines. If that is not possible, look out for a classic Alsatian version under the name of Pinot Blanc. Should you have the opportunity to visit the Jung family (please make an appointment) in Undenheim, nr Mainz, you will enjoy a fine welcome and a super opportunity to taste fine wines. Look out for a closely related grape variety, the Auxerrois wine and their speciality Riesling Spatlese Trocken. Very special!

The wine can be enjoyed on its own or most admirably when accompanied with poultry, pork or white fish. I always take time to chill a bottle but care must be taken not to overdo this as a measure of the fine bouquet will be lost.

Availability:

www.wein-macht-jung.de

tel 0049 (0) 6737 246

Wine Choice for July/August

Domaine de Chazalis Merlot ‘Cuvee Richard’ 2009

Regular readers of my website and particularly my pieces on red wines will have become attuned to my taste and aversion to overly oaked and wines strongly influenced by their tannins. So, here I am recommending an old world wine made with the Merlot grape and a delight to drink, either on its own or accompanying a meal.

The story of this particular wine is a simple one. This is a small family winery (father and son) who have been making wine for just four generations. In this area, the south of Ardeche, (Languedoc Rouissillon) France, the Merlot grape is well known and highly respected, with just about all the local restaurants stocking it. My recommended supplier reports that this wine is aged in one year-old oak barrels from a renowned Bordeaux winery and maintain that it is the “best Merlot they have found (sub £10) with soft, rounded dark fruits and silky tannins – akin to a good Pomerol. It is still young but benefits from decanting an hour or two before serving”.

The Merlot grape is the most widely grown grape variety in France, most notably in the Bordeaux Region and, while variable in style, I must say that I am delighted to have been introduced to this delicious wine.

Supplier: Winestore.co.uk tel. 0845 058 0021

Wine Choice for May/June

Clocktower  Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010

The first vine in the modern era of Marlborough wine was planted in 1973, with the first grapes harvested in 1976. The company Montana kick-started the modern era of viticulture in this famous area of Sourth Island,  New Zealand.  Vines had been grown here almost a century earlier. Marlborough has one of New Zealand’s sunniest and driest climates. During the summer,  easterly breezes cool the vineyards from mid-morning  into the early evening. All this aids the characteristic fresh, vibrant fruit quality. Marborough’s keynote wine is the famous Sauvignon Blanc, which immediately reminds us of herbaceous aromas and flavours, zingy with tart fruits such as gooseberry.It is this grape which I am recommending as a refreshing summer drink, enjoy it with a meal or on its own, chilled to your own satisfaction. I would prefer to seek out a 2010 vintage if at all possible which gives me a little more body to the wine. I appreciate that the 2011 vintage is widely marketed now and, such is the demand for New Zealand wines, this does not surprise me.

It is this grape which I am recommending as a refreshing summer drink, enjoy it with a meal or on its own, chilled to your own satisfaction. I would prefer to seek out a 2010 vintage if at all possible which gives me a little more body to the wine. I appreciate that the 2011 vintage is widely marketed now and, such is the demand for New Zealand wines, this does not surprise me.

This is a wine produced by renowned winemaker, Brent Marris of Wither Hills winery. It is an innovative and exciting example of New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blanc which combines lively flavours of fresh gooseberry, juicy lemon and tropical fruit with a crisp edge. This is an elegant, sophisticated dry white.  I agree with this description and am happy to recommend it. I am also delighted that this wine is unoaked and I’m sure many who try it will feel it is reminiscent of a fine Sancerre. This is a wine that certainly complements a seafood dish that we enjoy in these parts.

My Wine Choice Mar/Apr

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, 2009 Cantine Talamonti DOC

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, 2007 Gran Sasso DOCG

Here is a household name and quite rightly a very popular wine for all occasions. This is a marvellous wine from the Abruzzo region of east, central Italy. Having established the origin of this wine, it is important not to confuse it with another fine wine, the Tuscan Vino Nobile di Montepulciano made predominantly from Sangiovese grapes. Our featured wine is made from the Montepulciano grape. All Montepulciano wines must (to obtain DOC status) have a minimum alcohol level of 12% and be made with at least 85% of this grape, with a further 15% allowed from the Sangiovese grape.

Within the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC region is a significantly smaller area, in the province of Teramo where an even finer wine is produced that was accorded the DOCG status in 2003. One might term this as the “jewel in the crown” and the Colline Teramane is located between the high peaks of the Gran Sasso national park and the Adriatic coast. This wine needs to be made with a minimum of 90% Montepulciano grapes and up to 10% of Sangiovese.

Montepulciano grapes and the wine is: 2009 Cantine Talamonti DOC
Montepulciano grapes and the wine is: 2009 Cantine Talamonti DOC

So, what is this popular wine all about and does it have a distinctive taste? I must say that I enjoy both the widely available DOC and the “special one” as much and prefer to drink them at room temperature a long with food. There is no doubt that there is an earthy taste accompanied with lots of blackberries and light tannins. It is generally enjoyed as a young wine, but will benefit from aging.

I will recommend two versions of this delightful wine, both available from Valvona and Crolla:  www.valvonacrolla.co.uk

I love this wine with fine Italian cheeses, Pasta dishes or one of the ultimate comfort foods, Pizza!

Winter Wine Choice

My choice of wine to run over the months of December and January is a Riesling Kabinett, selected for its ripeness, typical of the Riesling grape with a 2007 vintage. As we approach the new year of 2012, I am aware that connoisseuers of this grape will know how beneficial it is to give it age.

I have some close friends (Weingut Jung, www.wein-macht-jung.de) who produce wine in the Rheinhessen region, Germany’s most extensive wine region. For many years I have been tasting Riesling wines and recognise that most are marketed a few years after harvesting. Equally, most of the wine purchased will be consumed soon thereafter, why not? The experience of drinking today, a fine Riesling Kabinett, harvested in 2004 is quite special. The colour, the “nose” and the tasting is totally different to a young wine, made from this grape. The Reisling grape remains the “queen of the grapes” and is the noblest grape of Germany and the Alsace offering a powerful fragrance, reflecting minerals, flowers, wild strawberries, lime and honey. Then there is this characteristic nose of Kerosene products – quite amazing!

From the same region of Rheinhessen comes the famous wine of Nierstein, wine of the Rote Hang (Red slope). The vineyards from this area have to be seen to be believed, such is the steepness of the slopes running down to the Rhein. The red sandstone rock and clay soils produce splendid Reisling wines which can be searched for.

My recommendation is rather special, similar wines should be more widely available (such is the general and deplorable paucity of fine German wines, readily available in the UK) and is from the heart of Rheingau region, perhaps an area, a little less known over here. The Erbacher Marcobrunn Riesling Kabinett Schloss Schonborn is from one of the oldest producers in the Rheingau, the family Schonborn having been involved with wine since 1349. This is a Riesling 2007 and is already giving a highly aromatic nose with apricots, cream, delicatesmokiness and classic petrol notes. Drink it now or lay down until 2015. It is available from Corney and Barrow, www.corneyandbarrow.com. This is a splendid choice to be enjoyed as an aperitif or enjoyed with a meal. I love to drink this wine with a meal of white fish or an oriental dish.

My Wine Choice Oct/Nov

Chateauneuf-du-Pape,  Vignobles Gonnet  2008

My wife and I have just (end of September 2011) returned from a short holiday in Provence.  This was certainly a special experience and, unsurprisingly included a visit to the famous village of Chateauneuf-du-Pape in the Rhone wine region. This is the most renowned appellation of the southern part of the Rhone Valley.   The area under cultivation exceeds 3,200 hectares with at least three distinct types of soil or ‘terroirs’. The endemic rocks in the soil are famous for retaining heat from the plentiful sun and releasing it at night. The powerful ‘mistral’ wind carries away the moisture, therefore intensifying the dry climate. This was very evident to me, along with the typical terrain consisting of small, rounded (tennis ball-sized) stones, ‘galets’ covering the ground as if serving as a mulch. The vines are often distinct in these parts being pruned to a bushwine shape, giving the appearance of an old, rather dishevelled style of vineyard.  The product is generally outstanding.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape roughly translates as “The Pope’s New Castle” and it was under Pope John XX11 that the wines in this area came to be known as “Vin du Pape”.   It was he who was responsible for building the famous castle, the ruins of which still stand today as a symbol of this renowned appellation.

The AOC (Appellation Controllee) rules in France,  allow up to 18 varieties of grape to be grown and used in an appellation wine.   In reality the two main varieties, Grenache and Syrah make up the lion’s share of a typical Chateauneuf-du-Pape wine today and as one well-respected wine producer said to me as we tasted his wines, why would he add inferior grape varieties to his wine when they are not good enough to make a wine on their own?

It became apparent to me that 2007 was a very fine vintage and clearly one should look out for wines made in this year. Not surprisingly, when purchasing wines made as recently as 2009, they will benefit greatly from laying down and my goodness does the passage of time produce a marvellous wine!

My recommendation is:  Chateauneuf-du-Pape Vignobles Gonnet 2008

This is a superb wine that can be drunk now, it is a Grenache/Syrah blend and is dry, medium-bodied. 14.5%

It is available from Corney and Barrow, www.corneyandbarrow.com

My Wine Choice Aug/Sep

Oyster Bay Malborough Pinot Noir 2009

Oyster Bay Malborough Pinor Noir 2009

New Zealand’s largest and perhaps, most renowned region is Malborough, located at the northern tip of the South Island. Oyster Bay’s  Malborough vineyards are located in two valleys: the Wairau and Awatere Valleys and their goal is to grow the grape varieties that are uniquely suited to this maritime, cool climate and moderately fertile, alluvial soils.

I am often disappointed with an overly-oaked Pinot Noir, whatever its source and this wine enables you to savour the fruit. There is an aroma of dark-berried fruit, with a hint of plum and is a more full-bodied wine than some of the familiar Burgundies.

Sources: All the recognised supermarkets offer this fine wine. This is a marvellous wine to be enjoyed, either on its own or along with roast Duck or Lamb.

Wine of the month – July

Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico DOC

This is a white Italian grape variety that I have recently become familiar with and have been consistently pleased with. It is a variety, primarily grown in the Marche region of Central Italy. I am recommending a DOC wine (Denominazione di Origine Controllata), Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi which is produced in one of the most beautiful areas and from a wine growing point of view, a very significant soil type. The area is situated in the locality of Ancona, midway between the Adriatic coast and the Apennine Mountains. It is made up of a series of medieval and Reniassance villages. Gentle, rolling hills are covered with Verdicchio vineyards.

Verdicchio has a long history in the March region with documents noting its presence there since the 14th Century. The wine is typically very clear and intense of a pale yellow and greenish tone, with a rich and delicate bouquet, full-bodied with hints of almonds, peach and apple along with a slightly bitter aftertaste. I would consider this wine to be one of the most suitable for a wide range of food and is most certainly a superb choice when served chilled as an aperitif.
My recommendation is available from most of the familiar supermarkets and readers will no doubt wish to check their own local choice. I have particularly enjoyed this wine from, both Asda and Sainsbury.

My favourite version is a little more expensive and is available from Valvona and Crolla labelled, Verdicchio  2010 DOC Santa Barbara.

www.valvonacrolla.co.uk

My Wine Choice – June

I will recommend two contrasting wines that can be enjoyed as an apperitif or to accompany a meal.

My first choice is a fresh and smooth Rose wine from the Languedoc Region of France:

La Serre Syrah Rose 2009, Vin de Pays d’Oc. 12.5% Alc

This is a superb value dry Rose with hints of “juicy red and black fruit”.

It is available from Great Grog, www.greatgrog.co.uk at £6.39

The second choice is a personal favourite and a wine I can enjoy on any occasion!

It is a Turkheim Gewurztraminer 2009, Alsace 13% Alc

I can never tire of this grape which displays a “perfumed, aromatic taste of lychees, rose-petals and spice”. This is a medium-dry version of this popular wine and, when properly chilled, is a perfect aperitif or can be enjoyed with smoked salmon, oriental dishes or a rather fine Sacher Torte!

This recommendation is also available from Great Grog and will set you back £9.89

My Wine Choice, May

There is no doubt that one of the most compelling reasons for choosing a particular item, whether it is a gift for someone or a personal treat, comes about  as a result of some notable memory. This was the case with me when choosing my recommended wine for May. It is my favourite month, not only because my date of birth falls in the month of May, but it is a joyful month with the seasonal change from spring to summer. This year (2011) we are experiencing quite unseasonal weather as April turns to May. Weeks of warm, dry weather are most welcome and the Beech trees, along with masses of bluebells are a joy to behold.

It is my guess that consumption of white and Rose wines will have risen sharply with this lovely weather as folk sit outside and enjoy the weather and glug on an easygoing, fruity wine. Until a few years ago I had never come across the delightful Vermentino grape and it is an Italian wine based on this variety that will be my recommendation for May. It was two years ago that I had the privilege of accompanying my wife and a good friend to the Tuscan, walled city of Lucca. We were involved in a Gardening Show (Murabilia) held on the walls of this stunning city during the month of September. It was on this memorable occasion that we were invited for a very “special” meal by our hosts and accompanying the lovely Tuscan food was a selection of equally fine wine. I had planned to stick with red wine that evening but decided to try a little white wine that the girls were clearly enjoying. I was immediately captivated and puzzled, a completely unfamiliar grape. I studied the label and was from that moment never to forget the Vermentino wine. My first recollection was of a fruity perfume, dry but full of apricots and some more uncharacteristic fruits. I will try it again and again and try and identify these fruits

Although this is a wine more familiar with Sardinia where it has been given DOCG status, I will recommend a Vermentino from Tuscany:

Vermentino 2009 Poggio al Tesoro

Amazingly, for such a fine wine, this is only the second vintage of this Tuscan Vermentino. The supplier, Valvona and Crolla, write about this wine ”High quality fruit, gentle pressing and cool fermentation give expressive freshness and ageing,  Stunning!”

I agree wholeheatedly.

This wine is a memorable treat and will perfectly accompany a selection of this fine supplier’s range of Parma ham and Pecorino cheese.

www.valvonacrolla-online.co.uk